What is(are) the major theme(s) in William Shakespeare's Hamlet?

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byanyothername eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The major themes of Hamlet are almost too many and too varied to state succinctly. Some to consider are:

  1. Revenge/Vengeance: Hamlet is revenging the murder of his father.
  2. Death/Suicide: Hamlet considers killing himself, "To be or not to be"; Ophelia dies, the priest says by accidental, not by intentional, suicide:
    First Priest
    Her obsequies have been as far enlarged
    As we have warrantise: ...
    ... that great command o'ersways the order,
    [...]
    Yet here she is allow'd her virgin crants,
  3. Confusion/Mystery: Frustration arises from the play because answers are elusive: Is the Ghost a demon? Is Hamlet crazy? Is Polonius good or bad? Does Hamlet love Ophelia? Did Ophelia kill herself?   
  4. Love/Lust: Hamlet and Ophelia seem to love each other. Then she rejects his letters and he breaks her heart. Gertrude seems a loving Queen and mother. Then she remarries exceedingly quickly after King Hamlet's death.

As a side note about Ophelia's death, the Catholic Church made (and makes) an exception in the designation of suicide when the person was in "[g]rave psychological disturbances, anguish, or grave fear ...."